September 04, 2013
Call me deranged or a sad sack, but that’s what I imagined when I caught sight of him before the train entered the tunnel and a surge of ear-popping darkness threw his image against the soft agony of my own life. That’s the way I thought back then. Even a beautiful sight—a man alone on the river bearing up against the elements, daring nature—delivered to me a sense of doom.
December 22, 2013

Right after my ninth birthday, Daddy had a tantrum that made him punch a hole in the wall, his right hand break, and his secretary walk out. That made him punch the wall with his left hand and break that one too, and that was how I ended up Daddy's secretary summer before fourth grade. We worked from home, in an office that Little Steve the Child Molester built in exchange for services rendered. The office window looked out into dry yellow field, and on the far side of the field was our cow pond and Daddy's burn pile.

May 20, 2015

Shelley and Chief burst through the trees across the pasture. It was the end of a hot day of riding at the stables near our home in Tampa. My sister had gone out there with a friend and, as usual, she was one of the last to return. Shelley would turn fifteen that summer. She never took to softball or cheerleading; she was deeply in love with horses. Our divorced parents recognized this, and Chief—a deceivingly handsome bay with some quarter horse in him—was her prize.

November 23, 2015

Mother’s move to New York was just the latest of several problems I had that summer. By then there were Rebecca’s parrots, the Appropriate Behavior Rubrics at work, the increasing hostility of my downstairs neighbor, and the small, strange problem of Maurice.

June 12, 2018

A Southern Journey from the Summer 2018 issue. 

I’d often thought of going to Cuba, but in the summer of 2017 I was nearing the end of the first draft of the novel, and it became clear I needed to visit the island for research, to see Nicaro for myself. And, though I told no one, I began to dream of the events that might lead to my family’s reconciliation, a fantasy in which I was the hero.

September 03, 2019

A feature short story from the Fall 2019 issue.

The godmother is like an ancestor who never really left. Someone who’s here even when they’re not. The godmother is what happens when somebody asks your name and you suddenly can’t remember. When it’s gorgeous outside and you work up the nerve to be part of something but not enough nerve to brush your hair, that’s the godmother. Maybe you stay up too late and are tempted to give yourself completely to unrequited obsessions. That’s the godmother’s doing, too.

 

January 20, 2016

This was a real letter with real handwriting, but when I picked it up I felt a moment of confused dread. Next to my name and address was rubber-stamped DEATH ROW in black.

November 20, 2018

A Points South essay from the North Carolina Music Issue.

Funk can be a sense of place, transmigratory memories filtered through the nose. For George Clinton, the smell of pig shit crosses state lines. “I remember feeding them pigs. I was knee deep in pig shit. Cosmic pig slop. That’s why you make the same face when something smells. Funk tickles the same muscle. That Southern vapor. Up in there with the biscuits and bacon. Your mother cooking with that iron stove, especially on Sunday morning. That was that same good smell that make you frown like you hear that funky blues.” 

March 01, 2014

Of all the pitiless opinions set down about family, it’s hard to beat this snarl by August Strindberg, a sentence which appears early in the first volume of his novelized memoir, The Son of a Servant, one of the bitterest condemnations of family ever written: “Family! thou art the home of all social evil, a charitable institution for comfortable women, an anchorage for house-fathers, and a hell for children.”

April 28, 2016

A short story from the Summer 2013 issue.

Swansea said he’d never cried, not even when he was a kid, because it’s such a false and easy way to the thing that’s eating you. Like crying is too simple for real sadness.

Fear, though. We know about fear. It makes a hot rush out of my head when it comes on, and I can’t be held responsible.

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